Reflection on 7th Sunday of Easter: 2nd June 2019

Oneness

“That they may be one, as we are one.” These are Jesus’ words of farewell to his disciples and he repeats this prayer several times. When Jesus talks about oneness, what he has in mind is a complete, mutual indwelling: I am in God, God is in you, you are in God, we are in each other. There is no separation between humans and God because of this mutual inter-abiding which expresses the indivisible reality of divine love. As Thomas Merton reflected, “We are already one.” We just need to start becoming what we already are. All that is absent is awareness. To be one with everyone and everything is to have overcome the fundamental optical illusion of our separateness. Awareness opens our eyes to the reality of our oneness, and our openness to the Spirit allows this awareness to transform us.

On Thursday, we celebrated the feast of the Ascension, a celebration of oneness. In the story of Christ’s ascension as told in Acts (1:9-11), angels appear next to the disciples as they gaze after the rising figure. The angels ask, “Why are you standing here staring up into heaven?” Most of Christianity has been doing just that, straining to find the historical Jesus “up there.” Where did he go? We’ve been obsessed with the question because we think the universe is divided into separate levels—heaven and earth. But it is one universe and all within it is saturated with the presence of God. The whole point of the Incarnation and Risen Body is the revelation that the Christ is here—and always was! The Ascension is the revelation of the final reunion of what appeared to be separated for a while: earth and heaven, human and divine, matter and Spirit. Jesus didn’t go anywhere. He revealed himself as the universal omnipresent Body of Christ. That’s why the final book of the Bible promises us a new heaven and a new earth, not an escape from earth. (Revelation 21:1), We focused on “going” to heaven instead of living on earth as Jesus did—which makes heaven and earth one. It is heaven all the way to heaven. What we choose now is exactly what we choose to be forever.

Various sources: David Benner, Cynthia Bourgeault, James Finley, Richard Rohr

Reflection on 6th Sunday of Easter: 26th May 2019

The Holy Spirit will remind you of all I have told you.

 Jesus said these words to his apostles at a time of transition in their lives, at a time when they must have felt that all their dreams were about to be shattered, that everything that mattered to them was about to be lost.

One of our greatest fears, and the cause of so much resistance to change, is that we think that we are on the verge of losing irrevocably what we have valued from the past. Don’t be afraid that in letting go you are losing anything at all, because everything that matters, from all the experiences and encounters in your life, has been internalised and is firmly lodged in your heart. It is yours. It is part of you. It travels with you and can never be lost. It will continue to enrich you. Walk on with empty hands so that you will be able to receive the gifts that are still to be given to you.

We internalise what matters. When we realise this, we find a new freedom to move forward. We internalise what matters. We can safely let go of what doesn’t matter, just as our own bodies absorb all that is good and life-giving from what we feed them and let go of the waste.

When we are in transition, we cling to small tokens that remind us of the past. Holding that cherished item may be an excuse to wallow in regret for what has been lost. Or it may be a gentle reminder that all those memories have become part of who we are now and we have every reason to revisit them with gratitude but no reason to let them swallow us up in fantasies about how the grass was always greener in the field we left behind.

Margaret Silf. The Other side of Chaos

“The Holy Spirit will remind you of all that I have told you.”  A definition of remind is ‘to awaken memories of something’ God speaks to us in so many ways: in the words of Scripture, in the people we meet every day, in the circumstances of our lives, in the places we have visited and in the wonders of Nature. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to awaken in us the many treasured memories which we have internalised and which nourish us and remind us of who we are. When holding these life-giving memories, may we feel more fully alive in the present moment, more hopeful for the future and may we experience true peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”

Reflection on 5th Sunday of Easter: 19th May 2019

“Love one another just as I have loved you.”

Surely Jesus’ command to love one another was nothing new for the disciples and those of their time. The commandment is well known in the Old Testament: Love God with your whole heart and your neighbour as yourself.’ So what is new?  — “Love as I have loved you.” This is how we are to love. Love is not what we do, it is how we do it.

When we reflect on the words ‘…as I have loved you’, what are our thought processes?  Do we look for various Scripture references which speak of God’s love for us and in them find a God who loves unconditionally, a God whose love is indiscriminate: a God who is loving, caring, forgiving, compassionate, understanding and self-sacrificing. We find so many qualities of love for us to emulate. We are constantly looking for ways in which we can do this, ways in which we can show that we love as Jesus loved. Do we have the correct starting point? We are familiar with the story of the traveller who stopped to ask someone the directions to his destination. “If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here,” was the reply. Jesus’ starting point was his awareness that “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (John 14:11)

How we embark on our journey of loving others is rooted in our personal experience of who we are. Love is not something we decide to do now and then. Love is who we are.  We are created in the image of God and God is love. We were created by a loving God to be love in the world. When we get the “who” right and realise that who I am is love, then we will do what we came to do: Love God and love all that God has created. It is not really what we do that matters. It is the energy we do it with. We can tell immediately if there is love energy coming from the person we are with.  When we truly experience God who is Love, when we know that our heart keeps beating with His energy, then we become Love. We also know this to be true of others as well as ourselves. “To love another person is to see the face of God.” (Les Miserables)

Various sources

Reflection on 4th Sunday of Easter: 12th May 2019

Eternal Life

The verses that follow today’s reading tell us that Jesus’Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, not for “any good work, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? [Psalm 82:6] If he called you ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be wrong—then why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I say that I am the son of God?’

The Jews did not know Jesus. They were not ready or willing to believe that what God has done in Jesus, he has done everywhere: putting together human and divine. In today’s first reading, Paul and Barnabas also met with a similar resistance from the Jews when they preached the good news. “Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles.” When the Gentiles (the outsiders) heard this, “as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers.” For the Jews it was all too much to believe, just as it is for us. We are a creation of God from all eternity. Our DNA is divine yet we are born in human form. How can we believe this when there is so much evidence to the contrary? We are so aware of our limitedness. How can we be sons and daughters of God? Yet that is the assertion that Jesus makes and he says that we are to follow him in believing this.

To follow Jesus is to know who we objectively are from all eternity, to know that we are created with the same personhood, the same identity, the same combination of divinity and humanity as he was. Nobody achieves this to perfection. It’s not a question of being perfect. It’s a question of our deepest core identity. We are created in God, by God and for God. The main difference between Jesus and the rest of us is that Jesus believed it and most of us don’t. He knew, he trusted and allowed himself to be God’s Son. Let’s allow our daughterhood, our sonship to be a daily choice; to daily allow and surrender to this glorious good news of who we objectively are in God from all eternity. This is the eternal life experienced by those who hear the voice of Jesus and follow him.

Richard Rohr (adapted): Homilies

Reflection on 3rd Sunday of Easter: 5th May 2019

He looked just like everybody else

After the Resurrection we are dealing with a newly revealed presence. In every story we notice that the people involved do not recognise Jesus. Mary Magdalene thinks he is the gardener; the disciples on the way to Emmaus think he is another traveller, walking along the road; in today’s story, he is another fisherman standing on the shore. He looked like everybody else. The limited presence we called Jesus has become a universal presence available beyond all the limitations of space, time, ethnicity, nationality, class and gender.  Jesus has now become a universally available presence whom we call the Christ in whom “were created all things in heaven and earth; everything visible and invisible.” ( Col. 1:16)  The Christ Mystery is the indwelling of the Divine Presence in everyone and everything. All is an apparition of the Divine.

Albert Einstein is supposed to have said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” We opt for the latter when we learn to offer a daily ‘Yes’ to the forgotten reality that all creation is both the hiding place and the revelation of God.  Faith in God is to have confidence in reality itself, to believe that God is in the reality of our lives, that God is revealed in everything and everyone. Then, like John we can truly say, “It is the Lord.”

Richard Rohr ( Adapted): Homilies; The Universal Christ

Reflection on 2nd Sunday of Easter: 28th April 2019

Living the Resurrection

A week ago we celebrated the Resurrection. There comes a time, however, when we must live the resurrection. One week after Easter, is our life different? Where are we living: in the freedom and joy of resurrection or behind locked doors? What do we believe about Jesus’ Resurrection? If we want to know what we believe, we need to look at our life and how we live. Our beliefs guide our life and our life reveals our beliefs. We’re not all that different from Thomas. We each live with at least one “unless clause.” Unless I see, unless I touch, unless I feel, unless I experience, I will not believe. It reveals our struggle and desire to believe. It also reveals our misunderstanding of faith and the resurrection. The resurrection of Christ does not meet our conditions. Each condition becomes just another lock on the door. Resurrection empowers and enables us to meet our conditions. It lets us unlock the doors and step outside even when we don’t know what is on the other side.

Resurrection does not undo our past, fix our problems, or change the circumstances of our lives. It changes us, offers us a way through our problems and leads us into a future. God cannot lead us into the future until we are ready to let go of the past. That is why forgiveness is so central to the Easter mystery. We understand what it means to forgive others and even ourselves. Can we also forgive reality? To receive reality is always to “bear it,” to bear with reality for not meeting all of our needs and our conditions. To accept reality is to forgive reality for being what it is, almost day by day and sometimes even hour by hour.

Regardless of our circumstances Jesus shows up bringing life and peace, offering life and peace, embodying life and peace. Life and peace are Resurrection reality. The life and peace of Jesus’ Resurrection enable us to live through our circumstances. He gives us his peace, his breath, his life and then sends us out. We are free to unlock our doors, step outside and fully live.

Michael Marsh and Richard Rohr ( adapted)

Reflection on Easter Sunday: 21st April 2019

Easter is a Faith Moment

We might identify with the women through the events of that first Easter morning. They came to search and found an empty tomb. Then they were told they were looking in the wrong place: ‘Why look for the living among the dead?’ Finally they had to adjust to the staggering good news that Jesus was alive when they thought he was dead. Does their story remind us of our journey when we found life again where we thought there was none? We discovered that we had been looking in the wrong place.

No one saw the resurrection because there was nothing to see. The crucifixion is an historical event; the resurrection is a faith event. Easter is more than a feeling moment. It is a faith moment.

We can know little Easters all year round and if we develop a recognition of and a taste for them, they will deepen our faith in the Resurrection even when we do not feel the joy at the time of its celebration.

Our little Easters are those moments when we feel hope press against our spirit. Our little Easters are those moments when something that has died in us is raised to life again. They provide quiet reassurance that God keeps raising dead parts of our spirit to life.

We live the Resurrection when we try to live in the present moment, when we allow the Resurrection to change us now.

Taken from a variety of sources

“How does one become a butterfly?”

“You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.”

‘Hope for the Flowers’ by Trina Paulus

Reflection on Passion Sunday: 14th April 2019

Thanksgiving

If we are to be transformed by our reflection on the mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, it will be helpful to focus on one aspect so as to avoid becoming overwhelmed by so many images. This can be a difficult choice to make but the opening verses in today’s Gospel reading offer a very powerful image. Jesus takes bread and wine, His Body, His Blood, and he gives thanks.

Can we take our full life in our hands, even ‘those things which cannot be fixed but can only be carried.’ (Megan Divine) Can we then give thanks? “Thanksgiving is inherent to a true experience of wholeness. Thanksgiving is necessary to live the well, whole, fullest life. How do I fully live when life is full of hurt? How do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest of life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all that empties me out? For forty long years, God’s people daily ate manna – a substance whose name is said to derive from the question man hu, seemingly meaning “What is it?” Hungry, the Israelites chose to gather up that which is baffling. For more than 14,600 days they took their nourishment from that which they didn’t comprehend. They found soul-filling in the inexplicable, on that which has no meaning. They ate the mystery. They ate the mystery. And the mystery, that which made no sense, was like ‘wafers of honey’ on the lips.” What mysteries have I refused, refused to let nourish me, and in so doing have been unable to taste the flavour of honey they contain, unable to find the wonder they contain?

Ann Voskamp. Adapted

“Where there is wonder there is thanksgiving.” Ann’s life became one of openness to the wonders which surrounded her, finding joy in the midst of trauma, drama, pain, loss and daily duties. She learned to slow down, catch God in the moment and give thanks.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘Thank you’ it will be enough.”

Meister Eckhart

Reflection on the 5th Sunday in Lent: 7th April 2019

Divine Mercy

‘If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain as he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.’ (Goethe). Jesus sees the potential in every person he meets. Today’s gospel shows us how in his presence people feel capable of more. He guides them to the realisation that their growth is far from finished. Mercy gives the sinner a future when there seems to be no future. He recognises the wrong done but does not demand a penalty for it. This gospel passage models mercy at its very best. Mercy looks at others with compassion, it understands, it does not condemn, it sets free, it enables, it gives life. This ideal continues to inspire many, but for a variety of reasons Jesus’ example of tenderness and mercy proves difficult to imitate. Some of the hindrances to that imitation need to be named if we are to overcome them.

One obstacle is fear. The scribes and Pharisees are very uncomfortable with moral failure. According to their standards of justice the sinner must pay the price for what he/she has done. If the law is not kept and failure isn’t punished then the danger is that chaos will take over and chaos is very scary. In their eyes the observance of the law makes for order and that keeps chaos at bay. For Jesus too the law gives direction to life, but he looks to its deeper significance and to the need to understand each individual who seeks to follow its guidance.

Another obstacle is the self-centredness that wants more, whether it is more freedom, more control, more material goods or more power. This attitude finds tolerance and forgiveness very demanding. It is becoming increasingly evident that the more individual our views and beliefs become, the higher the levels of intolerance.

A story that begins with deathly accusation ends with divine mercy. Where the community’s condemnation would have led the adulterous woman to death, Jesus’ mercy leads her to new life. A story that begins with exposing the sin of an individual ends with exposing the sinfulness of all. Where the community begins with awareness of the woman’s sinfulness, this encounter with Jesus makes them aware of their own sinfulness. A story that begins with human testing of the divine ends with divine invitation to repent. Jesus reveals a new order in which all are called to repentance and the experience of divine mercy. Jesus’ desire for us is not death but new life.

Sources: galwaydiocese.ie/reflection; Living Liturgy

Reflection on the 4th Sunday in Lent: 31st Mar 19

Going Home

The Younger Son

I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found. I realise that the real sin is to deny God’s first love for me, to ignore my original goodness. Because without claiming that first love and that original goodness for myself, I lose touch with my true self and embark on the destructive search among the wrong people and in the wrong places for what can only be found in the house of my Father. The younger son’s return takes place in the very moment that he reclaims his sonship.

The Elder Son

Both sons need healing and forgiveness. Both need to come home. Both need the embrace of a forgiving father. But it is clear that the hardest conversion to go through is the conversion of the one who stayed at home. The ‘lostness’ of the elder son is more difficult to identify. After all he did all the right things. His form of ‘lostness’ is deeply rooted and it is hard to return home from there. Although we are incapable of liberating ourselves from our frozen anger, we can allow ourselves to be found by God and be healed by his love through the concrete and daily practice of trust and gratitude. Trust is that deep inner conviction that the Father wants me home. As long as I doubt that I am worth finding and put myself down as less loved than my younger brothers and sisters, I cannot be found. Gratitude and resentment cannot co-exist since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as gift. Gratitude, however, claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift, a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.

Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son

The Father

Today’s gospel is a story that speaks about a love that always welcomes home and always wants to celebrate, Being in the Father’s house means that I make the Father’s life my own and that I be transformed into his image. The return to the Father is ultimately to become the compassionate Father.

Henri Nouwen: The Return of the Prodigal Son